Farrior signs five-year deal

James Farrior has signed a five-year contract that could keep him with the team through the 2012 season.

PITTSBURGH – It must've been the speed he showed at the end-of-camp softball game.

"Yeah, (Coach Mike Tomlin) saw me running the other day, trying to get that base," James Farrior said after he signed a five-year contract for $18.25 million.

The deal includes a $5 million bonus, and the contract is not back-loaded, meaning the 33-year-old Farrior is expected to play through at least the first three years of the deal, and possibly the full five.

"That's the game plan," Farrior said. "Try to finish out my career here. The Steelers have been good to me, and I put all my heart and soul into this, so I'm going to try and close it out."

Farrior is the Steelers' inside buck linebacker, the man who relays the play call from coordinator Dick LeBeau, gets the defense lined up, and then tries to make the play. He showed this camp that he's still the best coverage linebacker on the team, and last season he led the Steelers in tackles and had a career-high six sacks. He's only missed two games in the last five years and is always in shape. The Steelers also like his mentorship capability for mack-backer-in-waiting, Lawrence Timmons, last year's first-round pick.

"They haven't gotten rid of my Foote-dog yet," Farrior reminded reporters of his current sidekick at the mack, Larry Foote. But Farrior also has an understanding of the team's future.

"Yeah, I feel like I can definitely help him out," he said of Timmons. "He's learning the thing pretty well. He's going to make his mistakes, but with me out there with him I think he could do a great job."

Farrior was asked if the mental edge he's gained through 11 years of pro experience has made up for any lost speed.

"I don't think I lost a step," he said. "I feel like I'm a young 30(-something). I still feel like I've got a lot of juice left."

The first order of business for Farrior is Saturday's preseason game in Minnesota. The 1-1 Steelers, according to Farrior, have game-planned for the 1-1 Vikings. He called it "the real dress rehearsal."

Tomlin on Thursday said the starters will play "at least a half." The starters, he said, will include rotational players Timmons and Rashard Mendenhall, the first-round picks each of the last two seasons.

The only starter expected to miss the game is strong safety Troy Polamalu, whom Tomlin listed as "very questionable," however, Tomlin said Polamalu has run well during his first week of practice, and has felt fine after practice and, more importantly according to Tomlin, the next morning.

The one position still truly up for grabs – assuming Justin Hartwig has indeed won the competition for center – is punter. Tomlin said that veterans Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster would each play a full game, with one punting and one holding each half. Tomlin also said that Ernster might kickoff late in the game.

As for the return game, Tomlin said that wide receiver Santonio Holmes will "potentially get a couple of looks" returning punts.

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